Category Archives: climate change

Diabetes and a cure?

I have been a fan of Dr. Neal Barnard for many years. He’s the founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which advocates for better practices in medical schools, better work by the federal government on nutritional issues, and the helpfulness of a whole food plant based diet (WFPB) for health and the environment. One of his books details the benefits of a low fat WFPB diet in the treatment of diabetes.

I was diagnosed with diabetes after several years on a vegetarian, and then vegan, diet. I was not by any stretch of the imagination on a WFPB diet. I was the kind of vegan who ate canned and frozen food after returning from a stressful day at work, and would be no more likely to buy fresh veggies or fruit than the next person. When I returned to Vermont from a stint in the nation’s capital, I reverted to vegetarian with all that lovely Vermont cheese to bolster me. My diabetes worsened and I was placed on insulin at 30 cc a day of a long-acting version. My diabetes worsened more and then improved, then worsened again.

In February, I converted to a WFPB low fat diet as much for the environment as for my health. Animal agriculture (including dairy and eggs) contributes more to climate change than the entire transportation sector. Many conservative estimates suggest that it is responsible for 14-18% of the problem. A more inclusive calculation that adds in the loss of Amazon rainforest to animal feed and ranching, places the number at closer to 51%. I was no longer going to be a part of that in any way.

I read as much as I could about the effects of my new diet on my diabetes, and was somewhat concerned after three months that my weight loss (30 pounds to date) had not led to a lower need for insulin. I got a rude surprise. One afternoon last week, I suffered a bout of hypoglycemia for the first time in years. I treated it as I had been taught and sent a message to my doctor. This was on a Thursday, and I had not heard from her before the weekend. She had advised me that I might need to reduce my insulin if I continued to lose weight and exercise. I followed her instructions. I had another hypoglycemic attack Monday morning, and called the office for immediate assistance.

The assistant I talked with was the medication manager. We discussed how to treat my current low blood sugar, and she instructed me to lower my insulin further. I was to call again on Wednesday, and I did before I took my insulin. She told me to drop to 5 cc, one sixth of what I had taken the prior Thursday. When I woke up Thursday morning, my fasting blood sugar was still very low in spite of the lower insulin the day before. I resolved to stop taking the insulin.

This morning that step was confirmed by the medication manager, and she advised me to call in a few weeks so we could discuss lowering my other medications with a goal of removing all meds.

Am I cured? Not yet! But I will be within a few months. And I am not alone. If I could shout it from the rooftops, I would. This disease is a scourge on the American economy for everybody except Big Pharma and the doctors who care for us. It costs an average of $13,000 more a year to treat a diabetic than someone without the disease. Current estimates say that fully one third of the population will have the disease in the next 20-30 years.

And why? For the same reason that heart disease is the biggest killer in this country. They are lifestyle diseases. We are fed them by the Standard American Diet (SAD). You can graph the correlation between eating animal products and these diseases and see an upward trend.

In Norway, heart disease was increasing at the same rate as here from the beginning of the twentieth century until the Nazis invaded in 1940. Then all of the agricultural animals were seized by the Germans to feed their army, and the people of Norway were perforce eating a plant based diet. The drop off  in coronary artery disease was greater than any produced by any drug Big Pharma has foisted on us. After the war, Norway’s rate of heart disease returned on the upward track we see in all western societies.

The science is clear and undeniable. But the animal agriculture industry is as strong or stronger than the tobacco industry when it was faced with similar damning evidence. Our USDA is crippled by its dual mission to support American farming interests while producing nutritional guidelines for the people. The business people are more important to USDA’s ongoing work than the people. While the evidence shows that meat and dairy are the primary causes of most lifestyle diseases in this country, are promoters of cancer and possibly Altzheimers, the USDA fails to give us that message. While we are actively encouraged to eat fruit and vegetables, we are advised to eat “protein.” A little bubble adds “Dairy” to the mix. We are told to avoid saturated fats and trans fats, but not told that virtually the only sources of saturated fats are in the animal market. (The one notable exception is coconut oil, solid at room temperature, a sure sign of saturation.)

What is to be done? Pangloss would tell us that in the best of all possible worlds, we would continue to eat as we have been eating for a century or more, and the health defects would be cured another way. I ask you how many diseases the medical profession has managed to cure. We have defeated some diseases with vaccines, some with antibiotics (although that is another troublesome issue given the excessive use of antibiotics by the animal industry), and there have been some successes in treating various cancers. The only successes in curing heart disease and diabetes have come from complete dietary changes. Cardiologists regularly tell their patients to eat a healthier diet, without telling them what that is. Instead, statin drugs are used to lower cholesterol, when the cholesterol problem could be cured by not eating animal products.

The animal agriculture industry funds studies, some of which do not confirm what I am saying here. For example, one study compared a meat-based diet to a so-called low fat diet, and the meat diet was no worse than the low fat diet. Except for one thing. The “low fat” diet used by the researchers was one under the federal guidelines that suggest that we should eat no more that 30% of our calories from fat. If that’s a low fat diet, I have a bridge I could sell you.

I am on the way to curing my diabetes by not adding fat to the food I cook. I saute in vegetable broth and get more flavorful food. I use bananas in baking to substitute for fats. I make crackers with nothing more than chia seeds to bind the ingredients together. My diet is probably less than 10% fat. Now that’s a low fat diet. Because even veggies and legumes have fat in them, it isn’t possible to go fat-free. But I’m low enough fat to cure diabetes and that’s a start.

 

Standing Rock and the Powers That Be

NBC news in its nightly report tonight finally did a piece on Standing Rock and the brave Native Americans fighting there for clean water. This has been going on for months and the MSM is finally taking notice. What changed? You should have seen the cops and National Guard that came in today, fully decked out in war gear, ready to take out the most peaceful protesters in the world. They maced and pepper-sprayed, they arrested and they hurt people, all in the name of the holy pipeline that must be built.

Hillary Clinton issued the most pusillanimous statement I’ve ever read from a politician today, saying that the protesters were peaceful but the workers had a right to go to their jobs. Not a single word about the dangers of pipelines going under rivers, the number of fuel spills that have happened in the last year from pipelines, the fact that the Missouri River supplies fresh water to about 18 million people, and the damn DAPL aims to go under the Missouri in three different places.

Our president two years ago said this pipeline would never be built. He’s AWOL from his job right now because he’s working so hard to get Clinton elected. But people are getting hurt and arrested at the pipeline he swore would not be built. He was asked about this pipeline during the summer when he was in Southeast Asia and said he would have to look into it when he returned. His one action was over a month ago when he asked everybody to calm down and let the federal agencies work on the issue. Other than that, big silence. It took hundreds of thousands of people to get him to trash the Keystone pipeline, and we have to rise up again.

Bernie was right about one thing. If we stand together and believe, we will succeed. STOP DAPL. Save the Missouri and the sacred sites that still remain for the Native Americans who have suffered so many abuses at the hands of our government. For once, do the right thing.

Lac-Megantic and “Bomb” Trains

Today, I was in Albany, NY, for the Break Free From Fossil Fuels action against the Port of Albany and Global Partners, LLC, among others for the routing of oil and gas trains through New York’s capitol. The action was also in memory of the 47 people who died in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a train similar to those that come to the Port of Albany, exploded and destroyed the Quebecois city three years ago. The fossil fuels come to Albany in tanker cars from the Bakken oil reserves in North Dakota. These trains are “bomb” trains.

A study discussed by Bloomberg news revealed that “crude oil produced in North America’s booming Bakken region may be more flammable and therefore more dangerous to ship by rail than crude from other areas, a U.S. regulator said after studying the question for four months.” Why is this excessively flammable oil being shipped through a state’s capitol very close to a housing project and playground utilized by people of color?

We learned some of these answers the hard way today, hearing from local legislators and council members of the costs in asthma and related childhood illnesses in the neighborhood of the Port. We saw the effects of these “bomb trains” in cities like Lac-Megantic, and the dangers posed to similar cities throughout the world.

We spent most of the day hanging around the area where we intended to block the tracks. At some point during the afternoon, we learned that the primary action of the day was held at another spot where the train we were expecting had been diverted to avoid our action. Five intrepid members of Break Free Northeast had discovered the ploy and two of them had rappelled down to the track from a bridge and laid down on the tracks. They were successful in delaying the train in an inaccessible place until they were finally arrested. When their activity was reported to the larger group back in Albany, there were great supporting cheers from the remaining protesters.

A DJ arrived and set up shop, and the protest turned into a dance party. The Albany police and the railroad police looked on in some bemusement as the dancing continued for over an hour. I confess I watched with some glee and regret that I was no longer able to join the younger activists in their energetic work.

With the threatening rain coming in, an industrious group began to set up a tarp to cover the food area and give some protection from the rain. Several people had expressed the desire to set up an encampment on the tracks. As our bus arrived to return us to Burlington, the hardy group of about fifty were standing their ground against the police who were beginning to lose their patience. They were still standing strong after the police removed the tarps and we got our last report to that effect as we exited our bus hours later in Burlington.

Were we successful? In some sense we were. We slowed the train and occupied the tracks into the Port of Albany. We joined groups throughout the world on six continents who were protesting the continued use of fossil fuels in the face of incontrovertible evidence of climate change. We engaged the local community to get involved in the discussion, and we put the railroads, local officials and producers of these fuels on notice that the potential damage from this means of transportation far outweighed in human cost any profits they might make from their disregard of human safety. Will the world join us in saying “No?” We’ll see.